Saturday, January 29, 2011


Will have a new government tomorrow.  Whether this will be enough to stem the protests is another matter entirely, and as Mubarak is the one calling the shots for the government, by asking it to resign and appointing a new one, I am inclined to think that this will not stop the protests.  For the protesters, the big issue is going to be when and how forcefully the military will decide to intervene, and whether they will do so for Mubarak or under their own steam.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The little things hurt.

And they are now being chronicled.  One less excuse for casual racism, sexism, or discrimination.  The site is called Micro-aggressions.  Go and read it, but don't expect it to brighten your day.

Qantas seems to have a PR problem...

... to match the systemic maintenance issues it denies having.  Coming one day after a cabin depressurisation on a domestic flight in Australia, and with a string (stream? torrent?) of other problems lurking fairly prominently in the collective subconscious, the average consumer now, I would suggest, has good reason to choose another airline whenever possible.  The chances of any plane falling out of the sky are miniscule, but the chances of a Qantas plane running into difficulty seem, on the basis of the past 6 months, to be much higher than average.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A good read

Hiding behind semi-anonymity does wonders for the level of vitriol a blogger can put to page.  Ed at ginandtacos takes full advantage, as in the linked article where he dissects the Fox News policy of bouncing hosts between shows, such that Palin (employed by Fox News) is interviewed by Hannity (employed by Fox News), and no-one who actually might have a clue ever gets a mention.  Quote of the day:  "Watching Hannity lob softball after softball at this idiot and seeing her swing and miss every time isn't just painful, it's the very definition of a farce."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

About the least happy news to come out of the Tunisian revolution

An upsurge in (primarily) young people in countries in that region of the world engaging in copycat self-immolation. The linked article says there have been 10 cases in the Arab world in the past week.  The motivation, I take it, is that, just as the self-immolation in Tunisia sparked the revolution, others oppressed by their governments hope that their acts will likewise create popular protests against their own leaders.

Things cannot be going well for you when self-immolation seems like a reasonable option.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why, oh why don't our enemies like us?

Via Yglesias, Josh Foust on the destruction of an Afghan village is disturbing but important reading.  Foust touches on an important issue here, which Yglesias does not go far enough in drawing out.  Foust rightly claims that both 'the assumption of good intentions' (namely, the assumption that civilians in occupied territory will accept that the US means well in itas actions) and the 'gullibility of Americans' (namely, the belief that because the locals act glad to see them, they actually are, rather than merely behaving in a self interested manner) are questionable (or simply false).  Yglesias suggests that the prevalence of these two false beliefs is a large part of the problem inherent in pro-military attitudes in the US, as:

"There’s a historical narrative about the United States being a force for good in the world whose military prowess is critical to the preservation of freedom that simply has nothing to do with the historical experience of large portions of the world. Nobody ever liberated Yemenis, or Pakistanis, or Venezuelans from Hitler or anything."

I think the problem goes even further.  It expands to include not only the people in immediate contact with the US military in various parts of the globe, but also erstwhile US allies, who buy into the assumptions about how occupied countries will react to occupation to a much lesser degree than does the US.  Part of the reason it was hard to get other countries on board for the invasion of Iraq is this type of concern.  Encouragement of UN led missions is at least arguably propped up by a wish to prevent the kind of worries that arise from unilateral military action.

So the US is operating under a false set of beliefs, and in doing so, is setting itself up to be seen as the bad guy by (largely) the developing and undeveloped world, while the developed countries who refrain from unilateral interference gain credibility and international standing.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Drum on lifestyle similarities between the rich and the middle classes.

Kevin Drum asked an interesting question a couple days back about whether the middle class feel closer to the poor or the rich in modern US society.  He asked, if you were earning $100,000 a year, and were given the opportunity to risk, on the toss of a coin, either living on $30,000 a year for the remainder of your life (heads), or living on $1,000,000 a year for the remainder of your life (tails), would you take the chance?  The answer he received was that no, not many people would take the chance.  This suggests that most people feel significantly close to the rich.  By his estimate, about 90% of respondents to his question would not choose to toss the coin.  They would accept the $100,000 a year status quo over the 50/50 chance of $30,000/$1,000,000. 

The follow-up question is, should we be surprised by this?  I don't think so.  While I am not operating within the US system, the Australian dollar is pretty much on par with the US one at the moment, and so my own experiences may mirror fairly well those of my US counterparts (or may not, I am not sure how significantly the social situation differs).  But $100,000 a year is not just comfortable, it is more than comfortable.  You have to make some extravagant choices to spend that much money.  Not simply eating well and travelling a bit, but buying houses and cars that are beyond your means.  It takes effort to spend more than you should in this context, and if you were earning 1 million dollars, the same would apply.  By contrast, earning $30,000 a year, it requires only bad luck to have to make hard choices as to what to spend your money on.  So there is a similarity shared by the 100k and the 1000k income, that differentiates them from the 30k income, and that similarity is in the control they have over their own lives.  Risking the loss of control, I suggest, is what prevents 9 in 10 people from taking the chance.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I have been in Japan.  It has been marvellous.  I have managed to completely ignore both this blog and the food one in that time.  That will now cease.